Songs of the Stars
Naxos Records, 06/30/2009, Catalog #: 8570533. 1 disc, stereo, 63 min.
Composers: Enrique Granados, Enrique Morera, M Blancafort de Rosselló, Manuel Oltra, Pau Casals. Conducted by Dennis Keene, Orchestra/Ensemble: Voices of Ascension.
I love choral music, and if you do too, take note of this recent Naxos release, this CD revives a forgotten work, Cant de les estrelles (Song of the stars), by the Spanish composer Enrique Granados. It’s the “big” work on this CD, a 17-minute piece for piano, organ and three choirs, not been heard since its debut in Barcelona in 1911—at the same concert at which Granados unveiled his monumental piano suite ‘Goyescas.’ This fine new live recording, featuring conductor Dennis Keene and the Voices of Ascension, pianist Douglas Riva and organist Mark Kruczek is gorgeous in every way—from the engineering quality to the performances.
The remainder of the CD presents the works by five Catalan composers, recorded at a series of New York concerts in March 2007 and also performed by the Voices of Ascension. Several of these pieces make their world-premiere recording debut here, and, except for Pau Casals’ justly respected “Nigra sum”, this music is rarely encountered in concert or on disc.
Some of this music was never intended for concert use but rather for services at the Catalan monastery of Montserrat. Nine brief settings of liturgical texts, beautiful, gem-like small pieces, from the Pater noster to three different Ave Marias – two of them with gorgeous soprano solos by Elena Williamson.
Also included here is Enric Morera’s Ave Maria, full of leaping choral chords over an imposing organ foundation, and two additional works by Granados – instrumental works for violin & piano, light in style with some very pleasing melodies.
This is lovely stuff, well worth a listen, and at typical Naxos bargain pricing.